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Schadenfreude Essay

“Schadenfreude” means ‘taking pleasure out of someone else’s misfortune. ‘ Both “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead” and the “Comedians,” both use ‘Schadenfreude’ in the creation of humour in the play. Compare how Schadenfreude is employed in the two plays and it’s success in creating humour Both of the plays “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead” by Tom Stoppard and “Comedians” by Trevor Griffiths are extremely humorous and farcical plays. In order to generate the humour present throughout both of these plays, the writer’s have used an array of techniques.

However, whilst using a diverse range of these techniques, ‘Schadenfreude’ habitually is paramount in the writer’s manufacturing of humour. Schadenfreude means acquiring gratification and amusement from someone else’s misfortune. Schadenfreude is employed perpetually by both writers in these plays, where we the audience benefit from some of the characters infelicity. The play “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead” by Tom Stoppard, is a comedy burdened with sadness. It is a play based around two comical, perplexing and entertaining characters, which as the title insinuates are called Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.

The plot is linked into the famous play ‘Hamlet’ by William Shakespeare, and it is the job of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to find out why he is behaving so strangely and in such a threatening manner. They undertake this task with commendable persistency, but without vehemence, ingenuity or success and events move hastily out of their control. Because of the nature of these characters, schadenfreude is utilised on them in abundance and to admirable effect, as the audience certainly acquires a great deal of humour from some of the unfortunate happenings which occur.

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There are copious examples of schadenfreude in “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead,” used at the expense of one or both of these two main characters. There are examples from the very start where at the cost of these characters integrity, we the audience are entertained. At the start of the play, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern sit spinning coins and betting on the outcome. Rosencrantz calls “heads” ‘seventy-six’ times and on each occasion he wins the bet, “Seventy- six in a row” he shouts in delight.

Much to the audience’s amusement we see a “redistribution of wealth” at the expense of Guildenstern, who has to hand over money eighty-nine times altogether. However, despite this eventuality, he is largely unconcerned and uncomprehending. Guildenstern on the other hand is bewildered and perplexed by this fluke, “A New World record I imagine. ” He is at an enigma as to how Rosencrantz could be so fortuitous. Rosencrantz states how he has “Never known anything like it,” but at his expense the audience gets a laugh from Guildenstern’s reply to this, “One, he has never known anything like it. Two, he has never had anything to write home about.

Three, it is therefore nothing to write home about. ” This amusing statement insults Rosencrantz’s naivety in life. Guildenstern surmises himself as a bit of a philosopher and comes up with a hypothesis for the “Law of averages,” that; Guil: “If six monkeys were thrown up in the air for long enough they would land on their tails about as often as they would land on their” Ros: “Heads” This quote provides an example of where the audience gets a chortle at the misfortune of Guildenstern. Rosencrantz says “heads,” as he has just won another bet at the expense of Guildenstern, but amusingly he also finishes off Guildenstern’s theory.

Guildenstern expresses how he feels that the run of the coin landing on ‘heads’ is about to end, “I can feel the spell about to be broken. ” However, much to his vexation and to our gratification the coin again lands on heads, and his “energy deflates. ” When Rosencrantz asks, “Have I won the game? ” we get another hilarious scene this time at the expense of Guildenstern who interprets him as asking, “Were the monkeys game? ” (Meaning sexually willing). It is then schadenfreude used against Rosencrantz, generates humour in the audience. To the audience’s amusement many of the things that he talks about are extremely ‘childlike.

A prime example of this is where he says; “Another curious scientific phenomenon is that the beard and fingernails grow after death. ” Rosencrantz follows this statement up with a fact that is extremely humerous for the audience, where he ludicrously says, “The fingernails also grow before death, but not the beard though. ” This fact that he issues incontrovertibly exemplifies his naivety. Guildenstern asks Rosencrantz about, “The first thing that you remember. ” To our amusement, Rosencrantz misinterprets him as asking about those memories that first enter his head, in response to the question.

To add to the humour, Rosencrantz then nonsensically says how he has forgotten the first thing that he remembers. Then when he has the question posed to him again he says, “I’ve forgotten the question. ” When Guildenstern asks, “How long have you suffered form a bad memory? ” he then very amusingly replies “I can’t remember. ” This very comical episode for the audience exemplifies how Rosencrantz is not particularly perspicacious. To the expense of Rosencrantz and to the audience’s facetiousness, we perpetually see him being incapable of following Guildenstern’s contorted arguments throughout the play.

Rosencrantz’s intellect is also ridiculed for the audience’s amusement and at his displeasure, when he experiments dropping both a wooden ball and a feather. He says, “This is interesting. You would think that this would fall faster than this wouldn’t you? (He then drops them both from the same height, and then suddenly realises the obvious result). And you’d be absolutely right. ” This divulges that for a short period Rosencrantz thought that the feather could have fallen as fast as the wooden ball to the ground, which really ridicules his intelligence.

Despite being embarrassing for Rosencrantz, this is an extremely amusing image for the audience. At times Guildenstern loses patience with Rosencrantz’s deprivation of intellect, which is much to our amusement. Evidence of this point is depicted by the quote where Guildenstern says to him, “Now mind your tongue or we’ll have it taken out and throw the rest of you away like a nightingale to a Roman Feast. ” Also when Rosencrantz immaturely talks about “What it would be like to be dead in a box,” Guildenstern very amusingly loses patience when he says, “I think I’m going to kill you.

Guildenstern also gets exasperated with the fact that Rosencranz always copies what he says, which is backed up when he says, “Why don’t you say something original, you just take me up on everything. I am sick of making the running. ” Rosencrantz spinelessly replies, “I cannot think of anything original,” which really exemplifies his unpretentiousness and lack of intelligence. Because of the prodigious contrast in these two main character’s intellect, there are perpetual misunderstandings and contrasting opinions through the play, much to our amusement, and often to their humiliation.

An example of dissimilarity in their opinions is shown after their first encounter with the delirious, tormented and disturbed Hamlet. Guildenstern states his positive opinion on their meeting saying, “I think we made some progress. ” Then hilariously for the audience, Rosencrantz completely contradicts this statement, “I think he made us look a complete fool. ” Their diverging opinions are also shown when they are both on the ship travelling to England. Guildenstern says, “I think I’ll spend the rest of my life on boats.

Very healthy, one is free for a time on a boat. ” Then Rosencrantz makes the totally contrary, extremely laughable comment to contradict this when he says, “I think I’m going to be sick. ” An example of a comical misunderstanding between the two characters is shown when the Player says, “He’s in love with his daughter. ” Stoppard here humorously is revelling in the notorious difficulties to which a careless use of pronouns can plunge the English speaker. The Player means that Polonius thinks that Hamlet is in love with Polonius’s daughter.

However, much to our entertainment and his mortification, Rosencrantz thinks that he means that Hamlet is in love with Hamlet’s daughter. He then misinterprets Guildenstern’s explanation, and so supposes that Polonius is in love with Ophelia. Another example of one of these misunderstandings, where Guildenstern this time ends up humiliated, is when Rosencrantz poses the question, “Would you go so far as to suggest that your mother is guilty of incest and adultery? ” Guildenstern who is pretending to play the part of Hamlet in the conversation assumes that the question is, “Would you go so far as to commit incest and adultery?

When Rosencrantz and Guildenstern meet up with the players, who are a small group of actors, to our gratification both of these characters are posed with a series of sexual innuendoes. “We can give you a tumble” is the first example in this series of farcical sexual references, much to the embarrassment of both Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. The players say how they do “Transvestite melodrama” and the saying, “Stoop…. bent,” indicates that the player is offering Rosncrantz the sexual use of his company, which could be of a homosexual nature.

Also when the player says, “Every exit being an entrance somewhere else,” this is partly a sly allusion to the structure of Stoppard’s play and is also the grossest of his play’s homosexual innuendoes, which to our amusement and their embarrassment are posed to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. When these two characters are left alone they both plan how to proceed (but to our amusement, without ever proceeding). In order to help them in their mission they play a trial game of questions and answers, and score it like a game of tennis, but to the audience’s entertainment manage only to confuse themselves further.

Their attempt is to discover the secret of Hamlet’s melancholy, which unfortunately for them proves to be unsuccessful. This task has established to be much more difficult than they had first thought it might. This point is exemplified by the quote before they have tackled the troubled Hamlet, where Rosencrantz says, “We will cheer him up and find out what is the matter. ” Guildenstern also says, “It is just a question of asking the correct questions and giving away as little as we can.

At their expense the audience is both amused and intrigued by these sweeping statements, as they know that with Hamlet’s present state of mind that it is extremely hard to co-operate with him on anything. Ironically for these two characters this establishes to be the case. Hamlet, as we know from Shakespeare’s famous play, is an extremely perspicacious man and obviously knows both Rosencrantz and Guildenstern very well from their “earlier years. ” Hamlet can therefore read both these characters intentions inside out, which is exemplified by the quote; “There is a confession in your look which your modesties are not craft enough to answer.

This to the audience’s amusement shows that Hamlet can tell immediately that they were sent for, to come and sort him out. The Player’s continue their rehearsal of their play in which the events, as the audience is already mindful, show exactly what happens with the deaths in Shakespeare’s famous play “Hamlet. ” When asked, “Are you familiar with this play? ” they reply “No. ” This involves dramatic irony, as this means that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are watching their deaths which inevitably lie in front of them.

This links in with Guildenstern’s strong theory that it is fate and not chance that is controlling our lives. We are both intrigued, but at the same time shocked at this particular misfortune for the characters. Guildenstern says, “Are you there? ” and then later says, “Well that has cleared that up. ” Stoppard humorously exploits the solecisms that are made when one is unable to see, at the displeasure of Rosencrantz and Guilderstern. However, schadenfreude used on these two characters is again extremely fruitful, as it provides a hilarious episode for the audience.

Rosencrantz tells the group of actors, “We’re still finding our feet. ” The Player’s reply to this is very significant, “I should concentrate on not losing your heads. ” This is extremely symbolic, as due to the way both Rosencrantz and Guildenstern have gone about their tasks, with the schadenfreude used against them both, it symbolises how they are slowly making fools of themselves. It also cleverly symbolises execution, which eventually proves to be their downfall. Once the letters have been altered by Hamlet, the audience knows that all that lies ahead of them is England and their death.

When Rosencrantz says, “We’re dead” the audience knows that this contains dramatic irony. The Player says we’re “All in the same boat,” immediately as they meet up. This colloquial expression which is literally true here, is a typical Stoppard witticism. Again at the misfortune of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, the audience is amused that the pair have been reunited with these actors just as they had thought they were rid of them. The Player says how, “The bad end unhappily and the good end unluckily, that is what tragedy means.

So therefore if this statement is true, as well as being a comedy, this play could be classified as a tragedy. Rosencrantz says, “What a shambles, we’re just not getting anywhere. ” This is amusing, again at the expense of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, as it brilliantly summarises the whole play for them both, as they have never really make any progress on what they wanted to do. Extremely amusingly for the audience, after the Player reads out the letter that Hamlet has changed, Rosencrantz says “Not that letter give him the other one,” and Guildenstern replies, “I have not got another one.

The audience takes pleasure in the form of intrigue as well as solely amusement from this particular schadenfreude used, as they realise that this particular misfortune is likely to prove fatal for both of these characters. Before both the characters are about to be executed Rosencrantz says, “I don’t care. To tell you the truth I am relieved. ” With the schadenfreude employed in this play, each time mocking and ridiculing both of these characters, the way that they accept it all means that they are portrayed at the end as extremely amiable characters to the audience.

The quotation above manifests how in fact Rosencrantz can take anything on the chin, as he even faces up to death with an affirmative and unconcerned attitude. Consequently, in my opinion schadenfreude is purposefully and sagaciously used as a device in this play. It does not generate its humour by mocking and hence embarrassing cultures and races, who may read or watch the play. It is utilised to manufacture two characters that are unusually likeable to the audience. This is a very subtle but exceptionally clever literacy technique used by Stoppard in the play.

Despite their lack of prosperity in the task that they are set to conduct in the play, they yield to their embarrassment and mocking in an excellent manner. Hence, in the end they are portrayed as exceedingly amiable characters to the audience, who are in the end sad to see their decease. With these two characters involved, along with their fastidious natures, Schadenfreude is consequently used in abundance in this play and in my assessment to marvellous effect in creating humour. I feel that schadenfreude is used perpetually in this play to put across serious points, as well as the synthesis of humour.

Pragmatism means the reliance upon experience and practical possibility rather than upon principles worked out in advance of, and used in order to decide upon action. If these two characters had been more pragmatic in the way they set about trying to ascertain the reason for Hamlet’s melancholy, then they may have been far more successful. Stoppard’s serious point here, which uses schadenfreude as a device to express it, is that you should be pragmatic and decisive in life and not reflect on things too much as otherwise you will never get anywhere.

I feel Stoppard inventively points out how we should not ponder on philosophies too much. In trying to work out the explanation to things which we will never know the true answer to anyway (for example Guildenstern’s philosophy on fate, or probability), Stoppard feels we will spend most of our life thinking about things rather than actually making progress and really living life. Before both Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are about to be executed, Rosencrantz asks “We’ve done nothing wrong have we? Guildenstern’s reply, “I cannot remember” backs up the point that he has got so implicated in contemplating and being reflective over certain things, that he cannot actually remember what he has done in life, and whether or not any of it was ‘wrong. ‘

Therefore in using schadenfreude to mock these characters with the execution at the end, Stoppard is making a robust statement. This is that due to these characters pondering on philosophies, theories and debates too much, he is warning us not to make the same mistake in life in trying to find answers to things that we will never know the truth of.

Hamlet at one stage says, “I’d prefer art to mirror life. ” This quote backs up what Stoppard is trying to allude to. All good art holds up a mirror to life and if like both Rosencrantz and Guildenstern people ruminate over small things in life rather than actually living it to the full, then the end picture produced on your life will not reflect anything. Therefore, I feel that as schadenfreude is also extremely successful at putting across serious points in this play, in conjunction with it being the fundamental part in creating humour, that it is used to magnificent effect by the writer.

In the play “Comedians,” the writer Trevor Griffiths explores the philosophies of humour, where the reader is invited to question what they really find funny, and what they find vulgar, insulting and uncultured. The play is based around a group of working men, who attend sessions at a school with a teacher called Mr Waters, to train to try and become comedians. The plot is solely developed around their big performance and the final preparations that they make prior to it. This is a colossal appearance for each of the men, as they each say their act in front of a crowd during the interval of a game of Bingo.

However, more importantly is that a pragmatic and egotistical man called ‘Bert Challenor’ is there to watch and is likely to hold their key to fame and stardom if their act is forcible. It is the passion for stardom along with the abundance of wealth that it may bring, that each of these men desperately wants, freeing them of their current tedious, constrained professions. This point is backed up by the quote where Mick Connor says, “I want to be famous. I want to be rich and famous.

This overwhelming desire to fulfil their dreams consequently acts against some of the men in their final performance, where they succumb under the pressure. It is circumstances like this in the play where schadenfreude is utilised, and hence where the audience gets a laugh from the characters extreme and severe misfortunes. There are also profuse examples of the employment of schadenfreude in this play. However, compared to “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead,” the humour and entertainment that is striven to be produced at the expense of the characters, is used in much less abundance.

Instead it is particular cultures and races that are mocked by the characters themselves, which is where schadenfreude is utilised in order to produce humour. There are also examples where at the cost of the character’s integrity, the audience witness some extremely laughable episodes. At the start of the play the group of men meet at the school, where they are to have their last practice before their big performance. When Mick Connor takes his jacket off Sammy Samuels mocks the suit he is wearing, “Where’d you gerrit, Woolworths? ” and “It was doomed the moment it left the animal. Samuels also ridicules Phil’s height, after Phil threatens to chop Connor’s legs off. Samuels very amusingly says, “And he’ll still be bigger than you. ”

Much to the vexation of Price and the facetiousness of the audience, Samuels mocks his new haircut, “Reminds me of a girl I used to know, I’ve known some funny women. ” He also mocks Challenor when Water’s explains what he is like, much to the entertainment of the audience; “We’ve got a bent adjudicator. ” At the same time Samuels bluntly also mocks Price calling him a “Slippy fucker. He also mortifies Price when he says, “You’ll come a right cropper one day you will. I can feel it in my water. ” As well as being very comical to the audience, this characterisation is also very symbolic. Price ends up the one who “Comes a cropper” in the big performance and “Waters” is the one who is most humiliated by it, hence the description “I can feel it in my Water. ”

Also hilariously when the men are talking about ‘milk-rounds’ Connor says, “I’ve heard tell that it is more than behind these milkmen are after getting. Sure my wife’s the only woman in the street ours hasn’t parked his float in. The reply from all of the other men, “The stuck-up bitch” is extremely amusing for the audience. Also entertaining for the audience is the the mortification of Ged Murray, his reason for being late to the meeting being that, “He fell asleep on the settee watching Crossroads. ” When asked by Phil “What you watching Crossroads for? ” he very amusingly replies, “It helps me sleep. ” Mr Water’s the teacher of the class then facetiously says, “We’ll do sewing if you like” referring to the fact that these men are acting like women.

When Price leaves at the end of the practice he comically for us but at the expense of the other characters says, “See you at the show darlings,” which also refers to them all as women. Water’s mocks Price’s rhyme when he says, “Your lady ‘jerks’ herself off. Is she a man? ” which despite being embarrassing for Price is very farcical for the audience. When the men admit to something that they find extremely embarrassing to Water’s, much to his expense and the audience’s amusement Price admits, “I thumped a teacher. ” Then when Connor says, “Oh the hard bastard of a thing you are,” Price replies, “Not really.

Were a woman. She called us a guttersnipe,” which is exceptionally funny for the audience. After Challenor’s speech to these men a few hours before they are to do their big act, Challenor’s theories as to how it should be funny contradict exactly to Water’s philosophy on humour, which they have unfortunately each written their acts upon. The audience gain humour from this when Phil bluntly says, “What the fuck are we gong to do. ” Subsequently after the big performance there is also examples of where schadenfreude is used to mock the characters, which is very amusing for the audience.

At the expense of Price after his lugubrious, humiliating performance, both Phil and Samuels ridicule him, “Listen to that stupid cunt. There’ll be no pigging business for him, that’s for a certainty. ” At the displeasure of Connor, his statement recounting his own performance is extremely humorous, saying it “Went down like a fart at a funeral. ” Another comical episode for the audience, much to the exasperation of Connor again, is where after his performance he says, “Shit! I never told me copper joke! I’ve been working on it all week.

Then at the expense of some of the characters that performed inadequately, the audience is entertained by Challenor’s critique. Talking in staccato form off his notes, he first condemns Phil and Ged, whose performance he describes as having a “Distinct smell of cock-up in the air about half way through. ” He also wittily says, “The cardinal sin for any performer is embarrassing the audience. You had ’em doing up their shoelaces and picking up old beer mats. ” Challenor then describes Price’s performance as, “repulsive” and “aggressively unfunny.

Then extremely amusingly for the audience Water’s decides to stand up to Challenor and stick up for his men, “Still full of shit, Bert. Fuller than a large intestine. ” He then also says, “You wouldn’t know a comedian from a barrow load of crap,” which at the expense of Challenor is an extremely amusing description for the audience. The characters themselves perpetually in their final act mock particular cultures and races, where schadenfreude is also employed in this play in order to generate humour.

An example of this is shown near the start of the play where an Asian man walks into the men’s practice and Phil says, “Blacked up for the evening. ” Connor decides to mock the Irish in his act, “I told him not to say anything about me bein’ Irish. ” He firstly jests about Irish intelligence, “Bless me, Father, for I have sinned, it is six years since my last confession… I have missed mass seven hundred and twenty three times. ” He then mocks the IRA with an extremely humorous joke, “Like the IRA man who knocks at the gates of heaven and St Peter says, who’re you? And your man says I am from the IRA.

St Peter says, oh know, you can’t come in here, and your man says, I don’t wanna come in, I’m giving yers all three minutes to get out. ” Samuels ridicules the Jewish first in his act, “I’m not that Jewish. Nobody is that Jewish. ” Also to the provocation of the Jews, Samuel mocks their accents saying both “Vy” and “fadder,” which mocks the way they say both “Why” ands “Father. ” Samuel’s then makes some humorous jokes at the expense of teasing the Irish, “Heard about the Irish lamp-post? Pissed on a dog. Here about the Irish cargo ship carrying yo-yos? Sank forty four times.

The Secretary runs into the boss’s office and says, ‘Can I use your Dictaphone? ‘ He says, ‘no, use your finger like everyone else! ” Samuels also mocks coloured people, “I was at the bar their earlier and I thought I would take a leak while it was slack. A big black bugger rushes in. Aaaaah, he says. Just made it! I took a look, I said, there’s no chance of making one in white for me is there? ” Phil and Ged are also racist in some of the jokes they tell, like the “Pakistani up on a rape charge. ” They also disgracefully tell a joke about, “Two fellers and they’re both crippled.

One has not moved his hands for twenty years and the other is in a wheelchair paralysed from the neck down. ” Mcbrain also mortifies the Irish and the Jewish, “There’s this Irish man called Seamus, not very bright… He got a pair of water skis for Christmas, spent the next three months looking for a sloping lake. ” However, Price makes the prodigious solecism of mocking and embarrassing his audience. To one woman he says, “I swear I have seen you at the dog track. ” To her husband he says “Eh. I bet she’s a goer, int she, sunshine? ” and then says to him, “Is that hair dyed? Looks dyed.

Are you a puff? Are you a Pufter? ” He then later says to him, “You’re a stuck-up bastard, aren’t you? ” One of the significant similarities between the two plays “Comedians” and “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead,” is the indicative theme of pragmatism that is employed. As mentioned previously, in the play the ‘Comedians’ Stoppard uses schadenfreude to warn the audience to be pragmatic in life and not spend all the time contemplating over irrelevant things to which a true answer will never be known anyway. However, again using schadenfreude, “Comedians” uses this theme almost identically.

At the displeasure of all of the characters that perform their act, we see how the fact that they spend time meddling and talking about largely extraneous things in their practice before, proves to cost most of them dearly in their big performance. It is in the end the more pragmatic character of Bert Challenor who gives them all a lecture on how to augment their acts. Just like Griffiths, here Stoppard is cleverly warning the audience that if they meddle around debating things, that they will never make any progress and that it will ultimately prove to be costly.

Therefore, schadenfreude can certainly be said to be used to great effect in my opinion in both plays at portraying some serious themes as well as just manufacturing humour. With the evidence that I have presented in this essay, it is totally unequivocal that both of these plays do utilise schadenfreude very successfully to create humour. Schadenfreude is unmistakably the cardinal method used by both these writers in these plays to create humour.

However, it is evident that there is a significant difference in the way that schadenfreude is employed in these two plays, and in my opinion it is this difference which hence makes one a lot more successful at manufacturing humour than the other. In order to really create humour and make an audience laugh, the characters involved must make a joke out of themselves. It is far more successful to do this rather than mocking and embarrassing other cultures like the Irish and the Jewish, or particular races that may have a different coloured skin.

This is why in my opinion “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead” is the more successful play with the way that it utilises schadenfreude to manufacture humour. It uses it to mock the characters that it has in the play, in order to amuse the audience. When it is the characters who are the victims of schadenreude and the audience gets a laugh at their expense, then the readers or watchers of this play will not be hurt or embarrassed. However, because “Comedians” uses schadenfreude at the misfortune of certain cultures and races, then for many this will prove humiliating and hence not funny.

The fact that Challenor who has lots of experience as to how to be really funny in front of an audience, at one stage in his analysis of the comedian’s performance says, “The Cardinal sin for any performer is embarrassing the audience. You had ’em doing up their shoelaces and picking up old beer mats,” exemplifies this point. Because Griffiths here is pointing out what is and isn’t funny to the audience, this therefore possibly shows that he has purposefully used schadenfreude in this manner to portray a salient message.

This is that to try and get a laugh at the expense of cultures or races is a totally inappropriate method, as was found out by particularly the character of Price in the “Comedians. ” It is by mocking and ridiculing the characters that are involved in the play, as is done to magnificent affect in the “Comedians,” which is the method that the audience finds most humorous. It is for this reason that I think “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead” is the most humorous play and is the most successful at utilising schadenfreude of the two.

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